March 3, 2015


An important part of any job search is networking, which is unfortunate, as I am terrible at it.

After a time spent responding to job announcements, I finally decided to accept the fact that sustainable development is a niche field where most available jobs are only on the hidden market and put myself out there.

Luckily, living in Paris means lots of conferences open to the public on the subject of sustainable development. I signed myself up for one, and even though I tried to arrive early on the day of, I inevitably got lost.

As soon as I took a seat next to two normal looking women, the introductory speaker began the conference. Despite trying to smile and introduce myself, I was met with unfriendly vibes.

Conference at the Ministère de l'écologie, du développement durable, et de l'énergie.

I spent most of that first session thinking about how stupid conferences are for networking seeing as if you sit next to two unfriendly people you basically just waste the entire day.

The conference broke for lunch, and I broke down in tears.

I fought the urge to simply go home, and accepted the fact that I was a big networking failure who hadn't even networked enough to find a group of people to eat with.

I began searching the near by restaurants for vegetarian options. Walking into an overly crowded pizza place, I saw the lady who was seated in front of me during the conference.

I took a second to gather up my courage and then asked, “vous étiez à la conference, n’est pas? Je pense que vous étiez assise devant moi,” (Weren’t you at the conference? I think you were seated in front of me).

Ah oui tout à fait! Voulez-vous manger avec nous?” (Yes I was! Would you care to eat with us?) she replied.

I was in!

I had a very nice lunch with the lady and her colleague, but somehow only managed to get the contact information from one of them.

After lunch, I took a seat elsewhere in the amphitheater and this time was able to converse with my neighbors, also getting their contact information.

While I wasn't a complete failure, I wasn't exactly a networking super star either.

Hopefully I'll get better as time goes on, although so far each new conference has been just as stressful as the last.

It doesn't hurt that some conferences are held in beautiful buildings such as this one (Hotel de Lassay).

February 5, 2015


I was lucky enough to get to go back home to California for two weeks during the winter holidays.

Christmas à la plage.

I made sure to only put really light weight objects on my x-mas wish list and asked my parents to not gift me anything too heavy, as I was hoping to use the return flight as an opportunity to bring more of my belongings to France.

As luck would have it, the gifts that I brought to CA with me far outweighed the gifts I received (why are wine bottles so freaking heavy?), and left me with some space to bring back beloved objects that up till now were residing in my parents’ garage.

I brought back some old journals, some clothes, my Ewok stuffed animal, and a ridiculous amount of DVDs.

Since the first time I moved to France, I’ve been treating my parents’ house like a Blockbuster. I have a CD case holder that I fill up with DVDs that I then I change out every time I go home.

My Ewok, books, and movie rental hardware.

This year, however, I got some DVDs for Christmas that I didn’t necessarily want to take up space in my special DVD trading case; I decided to take my French film DVDs back to France to share them with the French boyfriend; and I also wanted to borrow my Dad’s DVDs of the original Star Wars films as it’d been too long since I’d seen them and scandalously, the French boyfriend hasn’t seem them since he was a child.

All in all, I brought back a lot of DVDs and left some other treasured objects behind.

Now it’s important to note that Europe and North America are in different zones for DVDs. This means that a DVD made for viewing in America is considered a “zone 1” DVD, and can only be played by North American “zone 1” DVD players*. France, along with the rest of Europe, is in “zone 2.”

This has never been a problem as my computer is from America, and therefore plays zone 1 DVDs. For French DVDs, we use French boyfriend's French computer. Everything works out dandily.

Except that as soon as I got back to France, my laptop’s DVD drive stopped working.

So much for that.

*Apparently DVD players exist now-a-days that can play both zones, but unemployed me is a little too tight on money to purchase one. Also, I’m not sure I believe them.

January 28, 2015

Pole Emploi

The reason most people sign up with pole emploi, the unemployment office, is because they are getting chomage, or unemployment benefits, which are only accessible via this government body. Sadly, having a stage (internship) doesn’t qualify one for chomage, and so I didn’t immediately sign up. However recent graduates frequently do register despite the lack of monetary benefits.

While they do have a service that helps one search for jobs, the types of jobs that I’m interested in weren't usually advertised on pole emploi and so I’d been using other services.

Luckily, a friend of mine told me that if I’d sign up at pole emploi to declare myself à la recherche d’emploi (looking for work), I would receive an unemployment card that would give me free access to most of Paris’ lovely museums.

Suddenly dealing with French bureaucracy seemed worth it.

After signing up online, I received an appointment for about two weeks later to go to the pole emploi offices closet to me.

Knowing how these things go thanks to all my trips to the Prefecture, I brought the documents that pole emploi asked for (ID, pay stubs, CV), plus every other sort of document they could possibly need from me (copy of my birth certificate, proof of having graduated from a French institution, etc.).

I also brought along reading material to keep me busy for at least an entire afternoon, and I showed up to my appointment about ten minutes early.

There was a very, very long line for the accueil (welcome desk) for people without an appointment, and a relatively short line for people with one. Arriving at the front of the line right when my appointment was supposed to start, I signed in without a hitch.

I found an empty chair, sat down, and was starting to pull a magazine out of my tote bag, when my name was called to go back and meet my counselor!

Not only were they super prompt, but my counselor was super friendly, didn’t need random documents that weren’t listed on the official documents list, spent time looking over my general CV and cover letter, and despite confirming that they don’t receive many job offers for the work I’m interested in, gave me a lovely packet full of tips for people in my field.

My crumpled up pass that I keep in my wallet for emergency museum visits

She also gave me my get-into-museums-free pass, and I have been using it up a storm.

January 16, 2015

PDFs and the Prefecture

The process for obtaining the APS visa begins 4 months before the expiration of one’s student visa. After compiling, printing, photocopying, and organizing the various documents required and writing a lettre de motiviation (cover letter), I made my way to the prefecture de police.

After placing the various documents on the counter and saying that I was there to drop off my application for the APS visa, the French man behind the counter said, “On ne prend plus les documents du format papier,” (We no longer accept documents in paper form).

Not being sure I understood correctly, I said, “mais votre site web dit de venir avec tous ces papiers et les déposer à votre bureau” (but your website says to come here with these papers and drop them off at your office).

Ah oui, mais le site web n’est plus à jour,” (Ah yes, well, the website is no longer up-to-date).

Starting to feel a slight panic, I asked the man what I was supposed to do.

He handed me a printed out regular piece of paper (no fancy French flag header or anything) with instructions telling one to send all the various documents I had just spent good money printing and copying as a PDF to an email address that, I kid you not, was a gmail address. Not, not, not, but!

Trusting the process very little, I still did what I was told.

Fast forward 4 months to the day when my student visa expired and I had my scheduled interview with the prefecture de police to hopefully obtain the APS visa. For this particular meeting, I was supposed to have received a document in the mail from my school, but of course I hadn’t.

I called the school and they told me not to worry, that they’d simply email me a PDF copy of the document that I could then print out and take to the prefecture.

Once at the prefecture, I presented them with my documents where it was immediately remarked upon that the school document was not the “original” copy. After explaining that I hadn’t yet received the school’s document in the mail but that they sent me this PDF version by e-mail, I was told, “on n’accepte plus les formats PDFs,” (we no longer accept pdf versions).

Despite the prefecture de police's policy on PDFs doing a 180 in just four months, I was eventually able to get my APS visa.

November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving: year six.

Six years of being away from family and other Americans on this very American holiday has made it seem almost the norm. I am once again hosting a Thanksgiving potluck with my French friends (using my tried and true French thanksgiving recipes), and I am once again using this as an opportunity to reflect on all that I am thankful for in my French life.

This year, I am thankful for:

1. The French boyfriend
My constant proofreader, who helps me navigate French bureaucracy, I am so thankful to get to cuddle up next to him on a daily basis. I’m especially thankful this year that he drove my parents to Switzerland and spent an entire day with them sans moi because I had left my passport in Paris… Thank you so much!

2. Amis
As always, I also can’t imagine my French life without all the wonderful people I’ve met out here, from the amazing people I just graduated with to the new friends I’ve made in Paris. From commiserating about the daunting visa process to helping deal with the stress of office life as well as, now, the job-hunting process, I’m so grateful for you all.

3. Graduation
After two years of hard work in the classroom and in the office, I am officially a Master! I am so grateful for the opportunity to have gotten this degree in France with such lovely, wonderful people, and I am also grateful for the fact that my university just happened to be in Champagne as that led to celebrating this milestone with the delicious beverage that shares the region’s name at very reasonable prices.

4. APS
I am so grateful for the visa that allows foreign bearers of a French master’s degree stay in France for one year in order to look for employment in their field of expertise. It’s given me the opportunity to stay here for one more year, hopefully soon find a job, and continue this great adventure.

5. Paris
Living in Paris has led to a plethora of reasons to be grateful. Not only is the city beautiful and full of wonderful museums that I can visit for free on the first Sunday of the month, but it’s also a big tourist destination, which has meant getting to spend time with friends who didn’t think Troyes was worth visiting.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
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